an open letter to gareth bale

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale's signature heart goal celebration

gareth, you’ve got me feeling the love again.

Mr. Gareth Frank Bale
Tottenham Hotspur FC
Bill Nicholson Way
748 High Road
Tottenham
London
N17 0AP

Mr. Bale:

Let me start this off by saying that I owe you an apology. After all, when anyone inquires who my favorite player is, your name is the always the first to come out of my mouth.

From the day you signed from Southampton, through the Premier League record 24 games without a win, you’ve been the Spur I’ve most admired. Maybe it’s because you turned into a massive signing for me on FIFA ’07 while you were still a starlet playing for Saints. Or maybe it’s because you were a swashbuckling left-footed left back that balled on the set pieces, much like I once aspired to be. I don’t know exactly why; you’ve just been my favorite player for a long, long time.

But, I’ve admittedly been pretty harsh on you at times this season and last. For a number of reasons. None of them would surprise you. They’re the same complaints which you’ve heard from everyone else at this point.

Despite understanding why you go down so easy — to avoid greater injury, you try to avoid the contact if possible — I’d get myself worked into a tizzy at the frequency with which you did it. Curses would be mumbled (sometimes) under my breath when you deserved a foul you weren’t given, but your perceived reputation for simulation instead earned you a wag of the finger or a yellow. We’ve all got our vices, let’s just not forget that we need to work to improve them.

There’s also your propensity to drifting out of position that drives me a little crazy. I’m by no means insinuating that you’re bad on the right, or insinuating you shouldn’t cut into the middle from the left any longer. It’s great that you’re capable of attacking from various parts of the pitch. Adding other dimensions to your game makes you less predictable, thus increasing your overall effectiveness. But sometimes its important to remember just how friggin’ exceptional you are at flying down and attacking from that left wing. I’m aware it’s not always your decision on where you get to play, but I also don’t think AVB is telling you to head to the right all the time either, right?

And lastly, there are those persistent rumors of a move to a bigger club. Again, I know this isn’t all your fault, too. Playing the way you have over the last few seasons, you were bound to catch the eye of many clubs trying to achieve big things… and journalists trying to achieve big sales. But you haven’t hurt their cause either. To us fans, the thought of you wanting to leave smells of inflated ego and a lack of loyalty. Then again, I doubt I’d be able to ward of the flirtations of a Real Madrid or Barcelona at 23 either.

Tottenham's Gareth Bale rounds Aston Villas' Brad Guzan

calm, composed and completely dominant against aston villa, bale played the way we all want him to every week. and for the most part this season, he’s delivered.

But after watching you against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, dropping a hat trick and generally dismantling the Birmingham outfit — almost singlehandedly — it finally snapped me out of this temporary funk of disappointment I’ve had with you recently.

Reflecting back over the season so far, you’ve actually easily been our most consistent player. Perhaps this is at least slightly attributable to the way Villas-Boas is deploying you, but you can see how you have matured, too. Smarter on the dribble, picking your times better, your service from the wing even better. Even your set pieces have been far more effective, if a little too Cristiano-esque. I used to gripe that you never used your right boot, but you’ve scored twice with it this season. I was even impressed by your move to have the ears pinned back, a move that undoubtedly reduces drag and undercuts your opponents’ jibes.

But seriously Gareth, you’ve been a revelation for Spurs this season. Our hope. Our spark. Our star. And while I’m hardly the first to say it about you, it’s worth saying the adjective again: unplayable. Pundits, journalists and bloggers alike all agree.

And though I sometimes get caught up in the emotion of the game, yelling/tweeting at you in frustration, don’t take it personally. I’m sure you don’t, but let a guy pretend. It’s just I have high expectations and a metric-shit-ton of belief in you. You play the game the way I always wanted to play, but wasn’t capable of. And though I’d like to think you will stick with Tottenham for the rest of your career, I can’t fault your for the ambition. It’s the same drive that let’s you do what you’ve done this campaign. Just be smart about where you go, and move for reasons aside from the fattest contract, and you’ll still be my favorite player.

It’s a privilege to get to watch you play week in and week out. Thanks for reminding me of that.

Looking forward to the rest of the season… and hopefully beyond,

D.J. Switzer
Wrong Side of the Pond

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the ups and downs of a transition

When Daniel Levy decided back in June that Harry Redknapp era needed to come to an early end and that he should replace him with André Villas-Boas, he was making a calculated decision. Unseating a manager with a proven track record only to replace him with one who’s relatively unproven was always going to have its pitfalls. He knew what he was getting himself into.

Andre Villas Boas

appointing villas-boas meant that spurs knew there would be bumps along the road.

Villas-Boas’ arrival meant wide scale changes were in store. The playing style would change, personnel would change, and — to an extent — the club’s philosophy would change. New players with a different style would arrive, while some familiar faces would depart. New ways of thinking would be required, and it would understandably take time to implement changes of such magnitude. Experience would also be sacrificed. Redknapp’s 29 years in management is only six less than Villas-Boas has even been alive. Harry’s Portuguese successor would still be learning his craft, and he should be expected to make some mistakes from time to time. Setbacks would undoubtedly occur as the new manager, the players and the club feel one another out. Transitions, after all, are rarely completely smooth.

And without a doubt, certain segments of the support would take great offense to the move. Dismissing a man who hoisted Tottenham from the ashes of the short-lived Juande Ramos era to the lofty heights of the Champions League quarterfinals and two top four finishes would ruffle a few supporters’ feathers. The same discontent would arise when his the man named to replace him had “failed” with a Chelsea side that won the Champions League.

Knowing all of that before hand, why in the name of Bill Nicholson would Levy pull the trigger on sacking Redknapp and hiring AVB in the first place?

His reasoning was actually pretty straightforward: for Tottenham Hotspur to reach its long-term goals of competing for trophies on a regular basis, some short-term risks would have to be taken. Levy thought long and hard about his options and decided that, despite all of the risks, this was the best way to move the club forward.

Vertonghen and Caulker

those who say AVB has done nothing so far at spurs must have missed out on caulker’s rise and vertonghen’s influence.

The funny part? I would have written the above passages even if Spurs had wiped the floor with Chelsea Saturday instead of the exact opposite happening. Had they won their fifth straight Premier League match, I would have wanted this post to temper expectations and remind everyone that there would be setbacks yet to come. The bipolar nature of the support means that the same lot of Spurs fans who would be talking all sorts of nonsense about challenging for the title/being favorites for the Europa League/yadda yadda yadda are most likely the same group that are calling for AVB’s head despite having only suffered his second loss all season. Both lines of logic are premature, and only time and the results will tell how that will turn out.

Yet despite the loss, the signs progress are quite clear.

Prior to Saturday’s setback against Chelsea — who were undoubtedly the best side we’ve faced so far this season — Villas-Boas had guided Spurs to four wins in a row and was unbeaten in six, results that Redknapp wasn’t anywhere near able to produce in the first half of 2012. He’s wisely promoted Steven Caulker into the starting XI (a move ‘Arry also would have been quite adverse to) and has gotten the most out of new signing “Super Jan” Vertonghen. Oh yeah, and André also managed the small task of coming away from Old Trafford with all three points for the first time in my lifetime.

Let’s be clear, though still finding their feet themselves, Chelsea are a great side and have quickly morphed into a potentially devastating side. So there’s no shame in conceding points to them, especially this early into the transitional period under AVB. And even though the score line wasn’t exactly flattering, there were bright spots within the match that show what he’s doing for the club.

Moussa Dembele

even without spurs’ new creative engine dembélé, the lillywhites at times still looked to trouble the european champions.

Even though the lead was eventually squandered, the young manager was able to rally the troops at half time and inspire them to come from behind and tilt the game on its head. They were able to do one better at QPR, where they reversed an early deficit and held on to win. Rallies of that type were another rare occurrence under Redknapp. They attacked remarkably well despite Gareth Bale missing the match to become a father and the increasingly vital Moussa Dembélé through injury. And after 8 matches, Spurs are still sitting fifth in the table… ahead of Arsenal too, if that makes you feel any better.

So things could be worse. Which means we all need to calm down, quit spazzing and realize the position in which Tottenham currently find themselves: a transition period.

Instead, let’s just hope that Villas-Boas is learning his lessons… primarily that we can NOT sit back and park the bus once we take the lead against top sides. In both matches, Chelsea and United both pulverized Spurs once they relented in attack and decided to try to defend their leads.

AVB’s clearly a smart guy, so I’m confident he is taking lessons from those results. Give him time. Give Spurs time. Just like Levy calculated, we’re already on our way to bigger and better things.

ten words or less #25

a linesman smoking

linesman in the norwegian 5th division can multi-task.

Wow, we’ve already reached the quarter century mark for the Ten Words or Less series? What a momentous occasion.

I thought about doing some sort of theme for this special milestone post — only links to video of players tripping during training, links to pictures of footballers eating with their families, etc. — but it turns out that such a task would be a lot more work than I’m usually willing to devote posts that are supposed to be “short and easy.”

So basically, I’m saying you that you need to thank me for sparing you a stupid post. Because this one isn’t one.

Barcelona’s La Masia training video? – youtube.com

How do you not love the Timbers fanbase? – brentdiskin.com

“If all shots off the bars had gone in” table. – whoateallthepies.tv

Well no wonder he finally put one in. – reddit.com/user/yflmd

Find out if you make more than any MLS player. – mlsplayers.com

Harsh those Blackpool fans are. – thespoiler.co.uk

Reality checks feel like a stomach punch. – afootballreport.com

Calm down Noel Gallagher. We all hate Gary Neville. – kickette.com